For 20 years Indira Naidoo has worked as a journalist and news anchor on ABC and SBS TV, making guest appearances on shows such as Good News Week, The Circle and Celebrity MasterChef. She has also trained under Al Gore as a Climate Change Presenter.
However, it was her balcony in a busy Sydney suburb, that gave her a fresh audience and a new direction.
After popping a homegrown heirloom cherry tomato in her mouth at a farmers’ market and experiencing a “flavour detonation", Naidoo raced home to her 13th-floor apartment with a bag of those tomatoes and wondered what she could grow herself. Never one to do anything by halves, that thought then grew into creating an entire balcony laden with homegrown food, and publishing a book – The Edible Balcony – which chronicles a year of her life spent growing (and losing some) edible plants.
Naidoo’s second book is released this year, and it tells the story of the many visits she made to community gardens around Australia to meet the people involved. From a 200-square-metre rooftop garden for the sick and homeless, to a garden for refugees and one for children from disadvantaged families who have never had fresh food, she delves into the gardens and the people connected to them.
“There were just so many beautiful stories to hear,” she reveals. “Growing things is so much more than gardening – it connects and unites people, brings about healthier living, gives people hope and makes them happy. It then leads to fighting so many other issues that I'm passionate about, such as childhood obesity, pollution, isolation in the elderly, environmental degradation and people not eating real food.”
It has also been a massive learning curve for Naidoo.
“I have learnt so much of my politics from plants,” she says. “I was looking at a huge tree the other day, with a sign stuck on it saying it was old and dangerous and that the council was going to cut down it. It's 60 or 70 years old. Imagine if that was a person, with a sign stuck on them saying they were old and so going to be removed? Terrible. I see plants differently now, I see them as things that feel and matter. They are amazing forces of wisdom, however, most of us look at trees as just a resource. We all rush about to get everything we need – food, shelter, and everything else to survive, and trees spend all of their time rooted in the one place; they have everything they need while remaining in that one spot. It makes me think what an amazing sustainable model a tree is. It needs light, nutrients and has to fight off pests to survive. It shows me the chaos that human existence is. So these days I take notice of what plants are doing for all of us. There is so much more to learn from them if we take the time to slow down and observe.”